BY ROSEMOND BOATENG ADDAI Rosemond.firstname.lastname@example.org
THE COALITION of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) has stated that the Electoral Commission (EC) has misrepresented its close-of-polls statement on the Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency by-election held on January 31, 2019.
According to CODEO, the close-of-polls statement typically provides a snapshot of what transpires on election day. “Consistent with its practice, CODEO communicated its initial report of the election not only to the public, through traditional and new media channels, but also to the leadership of the EC via e-mail,” CODEO explained.
Mr Albert Arhin, National Coordinator, CODEO, briefing the press in Accra yesterday, said CODEO follows a strict protocol and has, thus, always taken great pains to ensure that it close-of-polls statements and other reports record and reflect only that which is factually and contemporaneously observed by its assigned observers and team.
He said “CODEO does not rely on hearsay or uncorroborated third-party accounts. CODEO is, therefore, surprised that claims or assertions it did not make in its initial statement have been attributed to it by the EC of Ghana in a press statement.
CODEO categorically stated that:
1. Contrary to the impression created by the EC regarding the shooting incident at La Bawaleshie, CODEO did not indicate anywhere in its statement that the said shooting incident took place at a polling station. CODEO was clear in its statement that “CODEO observers witnessed the violent incident, including shooting incident, which took place in the La Bawaleshie area at East Legon.”
2 The CODEO statement also did not in any way attempt to link the Electoral Commission to the shooting incident, contrary to the EC’s claim. CODEO, in fact, pointed out that its observers “could not confirm the exact cause of the violent incident.”
3 The Electoral Commission, also in its statement, denied that the violent incident which took place at La Bawaleshie affected voting. According to the Commission, the incident “did not in any way disrupt the conduct of the poll.” CODEO wishes to reaffirm its initial observation that as a result of the panic and chaos emanating from the shooting incident, voting was, in fact, temporarily disrupted at a polling station close to the shooting incident. Indeed, a media report of an interview with the Electoral Commission’s own Municipal Director for Ayawaso West confirms that voting was disrupted for about 45 minutes in the wake of the shooting incident before normalcy was restored (source: https://mobile.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Skirmishes-at-LaBawaleshie-had-nothing-to-do-with-voting-Rashid-Nantongma-719788).
4 Regarding the presence of security personnel at polling stations, CODEO is baffled by the EC’s indication of CO 2 security coordination for the election; the heavy and intimidating presence of security personnel at various polling stations; the display of a lack of understanding of the electoral rules and regulations by some plain-clothes (“non-uniformed”) security personnel; and the presence of masked “security operatives” at some polling stations. CODEO further wishes to point out that its general observation about the security deployment for the by-election as stated in its statement was not limited to stationed security personnel, but also mobile patrol teams. Indeed, security operatives in some of the mobile patrol vehicles sighted by observers at some polling stations were armed.
5 Regarding the incident at a polling station at the Prisons JHS Polling Station at Roman Ridge, where a stationed uniformed police officer was attacked for questioning and directing some plain-clothes security operatives at the polling station to reposition themselves, CODEO stands by the account of its observer and is ready to cooperate with the Electoral Commission and the security agencies to undertake further investigation into the matter.
6 Contrary to the Electoral Commission’s suggestion that CODEO did not provide an overall picture of the conduct of the polls, CODEO wishes to draw the attention of the EC to the paragraph in the CODEO Statement which noted that apart from the main concerns regarding security arrangement for the by-election, “most observers reported of a generally smooth voting exercise, including the smooth performance of biometric devices.”
The CODEO Statement further touched on other issues such as the presence of party agents at polling stations, and the generally-low voter turn-out which, indeed, has been confirmed by the EC’s official turn-out figure for the by-election at 19.83%.
7 CODEO further reiterates the point indicated above that its close-of-polls statement, which is typically released at the end of voting, provides a snapshot of an election. Indeed, the CODEO initial statement clearly indicated that “CODEO will continue to observe the counting and declaration of results, and will issue its preliminary statement in due course.”
8 CODEO wishes to assure the EC and the general public that in line with its standard practice, its final report on the election which will provide a comprehensive assessment of the by-election will be released in the coming days. CODEO has attached, as an Appendix to this Statement, its close-of-polls statement as released on the evening of Thursday, January 31, 2019.